KABUL — Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban’s reclusive leader, warned Friday that a bilateral security pact allowing thousands of US troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond the end of this year will mean more fighting.
The Americans and NATO allies are winding down combat operations but want to leave a residual force to help train Afghan security forces and conduct counterterrorism operations amid fears government troops are ill-prepared to face a relentless insurgency and the security vacuum could pave the way for an Al Qaeda resurgence.
President Obama has announced he wants to leave nearly 10,000 Americans in Afghanistan for two more years. The Afghan government has agreed in principle to a security agreement that would allow them to stay but the deal has yet to be signed.
Both candidates vying to replace President Hamid Karzai have promised to sign it, but they are locked in a dispute over election results.
In a setback to hopes for peace talks, Omar called on the candidates not to sign the agreement.
Violence continued Friday. Taliban insurgents halted minibuses in the western province of Ghor, identified 14 Shi’ite Hazara passengers, including three women, bound their hands, then shot them dead, an official said.
The buses were traveling from Kabul and carrying about 30 passengers, many who had gone to the capital to shop ahead of the holiday weekend, said provincial governor Sayed Anwar Rahmati.